What do you see when you see this bare-backed child playing on the street?
Most people would not even see the child – in a nation of over a billion people, you train yourself not to notice individuals unless you know them or want something from them - but some like my husband do. And when they do, they see poverty, they see the need for someone to do something for children like him. “Isn’t there some NGO that works with children like him”, he constantly asks. If he found one, he would probably make a donation to them.
And yet, when I see the boy, I do not see poverty. I see a boy playing creatively with what he has. I see a boy who is secure in the love of his family. I see a boy who is fed daily. I see a boy who has the occasional treat when his family saves up for it.
How do I know so much about the boy? Because I can see that while the boy is not at school, he is not at work either. And the fact that he is not working proves that his family can afford to feed him. He is probably the child of the people who dig trenches for laying down cables- they do not stay in one place long enough to enable their child to go to school, but they are not so badly off that they need their child to work.
He doesn’t need our charity. But he doesn’t have much of a future either. He is functionally illiterate and the best he can hope for is to get a job similar to the one that his father has. It is not much of a job, but unless he can learn to read, write and count, he would never be qualified to do much else.
A curriculum has been developed to enable giving him a basic education outside the formal system. But for that, he needs to stay in one place for a few months. I do wish people could devise a system by which he can transfer credits from one non-formal ‘school’ to another. Because without education, what future does he have?